Gary woos investment bankers
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/302-0949 April 30, 2014 5:48PM
Participants board a bus Wednesday for a tour of University Park, a south side area the city has targeted for development. They had just received an update on the city's plans for University Park from Gary Economic Development Corp. officials. | Carole Carlson~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 2, 2014 1:01PM
GARY — In the marbled lobby of a century-old downtown building bound for renovation, the city made a pitch Wednesday to bankers for investment in its University Park venture.
Officials from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. joined the city’s Economic Development Corp. for a presentation on the merits of University Park, a 7.5-mile corridor that stretches from 33rd Avenue to Ridge Road and from Interstate 65 on the east to Grant Street on the west.
After a slide show, participants boarded a charter bus for a private tour of University Park, which includes Indiana University Northwest, its medical school and Ivy Tech Community College. IUN and Ivy Tech plan to build a shared $45 million building on the east side of Broadway across from IUN.
“Today is all about relationships,” said J. Forest Hayes, executive director of the EDC, who said Gary is focusing much of its economic development dollars on University Park.
While former Mayor Scott King had grandiose plans for University Park that never materialized, Hayes said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is providing resources to speed the redevelopment project.
The city commissioned a $113,000 master plan for University Park, and Hayes said it has spent about $3 million in federal funds to demolish about 70 unsafe buildings within the footprint, including former businesses along Broadway.
Harnessing a good portion of funding into one section of the city was a gamble that Freeman-Wilson decided to make early on after talking with powerful state Sen. Luke Kenley, a Noblesville Republican who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Kenley challenged the city to develop University Park before he would consider authorizing a trauma center and teaching hospital near Indiana University-Northwest. Last year, the General Assembly approved a feasibility study on the trauma center and hospital.
“This isn’t all about planning,” Hayes said. “We want results.”
He introduced Vance Kenney, of Gateway Partners LLC, whose company is renovating the 10-story Gary State Bank building at 504 Broadway — a project the city hopes will spur downtown redevelopment. Its last occupant, Chase Bank, left in 2008.
Centier Bank has agreed to lease the lobby of the building, and Kenney said two vacant structures south of it will be demolished to make way for parking and a drive-thru lane.
“This was the original depository for U.S. Steel,” Hayes said of the building, whose ornate lobby has many of the same fixtures from a century ago. “It took a lot of courage for Vance and his partners to take this on. We didn’t want to see the bank building go the way of other dilapidated structures.”
Gary is using a $2.87 million economic development bond issue to enable Gateway Partners to begin the project.
“We’re not wasting time. This is a viable investment. We’ll do this for any other developer or bank who wants to make an effort in Gary,” Hayes said.